19 de Abril de 2018

Blues keep strong in battle for a CL spot (1-2)

It is back-to-back away wins for the Blues with Victor Moses hitting a second-half goal which claimed a deserved three points and closed the gap to the top four.

The Nigerian’s strike, which capped a good individual display, came shortly after an unlucky Ashley Barnes deflection had beaten Thibaut Courtois on his 150th Chelsea appearance, an equaliser against the run of play.

Indeed Chelsea could have extended our lead before that through Alvaro Morata, having gone ahead in the first half thanks to an own-goal. Moses was involved in that one too when he supplied the crucial cross.

Antonio Conte, naming a Chelsea team for the 100th time for a competitive match, paired Olivier Giroud and Morata together as a front two for the first time from the start.

Giroud was one of six changes from the line-up at Southampton, and it was a big night for Emerson Palmieri who began a Premier League game for the first time since his January move.

When the game began on an evening that was almost summery in its weather, Giroud was the first of the two Chelsea strikers to receive the ball in the area, albeit back-to-goal from Moses, and when he swivelled and tried to shoot his effort was blocked at source. Emerson crossed menacingly soon after.

Saturday’s two-goal hero was next played into the box by Cesar Azpilicueta and when he tangled with Kevin Long and was felled, the Frenchman looked at the ref for a penalty but there was nothing doing. On 10 minutes, Giroud’s touch sent Morata away and although the angle was against the Spaniard, he hit the target and was only denied by the fast reactions of Nick Pope who saved low down by his foot. That was the first sign of the front two forming a link that would look promising tonight. In a rarity in Premier League football these days, both sides were fielding two central strikers.

Overall, this was the start to this potentially tough game Conte and the Chelsea fans who had made the difficult journey wanted, and it bore fruit in the 19th minute. Gary Cahill, ex of this parish when on loan in his early Villa days, picked out Moses with a long pass. Onside, our right wing-back shrugged off a challenge from Stephen Ward and crossed. The ball did not need to reach its target at the far post, as Pope and Long got in a tangle at the near stick with the defender juggling the ball over the line for an own-goal.

Another of the Burnley backline, James Tarkowski, was booked as the Clarets tried to keep Chelsea’s driving front runners at bay, the only card of the game. Pedro went for the near post with the free-kick, but directed it wide.

There was just one moment of concern up the other end in the first half when full-back Matthew Lowton almost picked out Barnes in front of our goal but back up the other end on 32 minutes, a supremely weighted Giroud pass gave Morata a chance to shoot. Pope had closed the space rapidly and was able to block.

Pedro then took the attack to Burnley from his own half and sent over a curling cross that must have had the home defence on edge as they avoided a second own-goal.

Kante then found a hole in the Lancastrian rearguard and went through but hit a hurried shot too high. There were five minutes to go to the break and that would be the last attempt at the target in the first 45 minutes.

Rudiger, especially, seemed to be relishing the physical contest as Chelsea kept Burnley at arm’s length at the start of the second half, and when a Cahill slip conceded a corner, Courtois claimed the ball confidently.

Then when Kante intercepted a Lowton pass, he had the presence of mind to release Morata quickly. Our no.9 was away and went straight for goal at pace but although his shot, one-on-one with Pope, did not want for power, it lacked the vital accuracy as it whistled close to the post and into the advertising boards.

That was 10 minutes into the second half and Chelsea continued to stretch the Clarets with our direct running on the counter. Moses shot straight at Pope but it was Burnley who had the next effort on goal and with it, they would equalise.

Chelsea can count ourselves unfortunate. It is unlikely Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s shot from distance was going to trouble Courtois unduly, but then it took a big deflection off Barnes and found the bottom corner. 1-1 on 64.

Emerson struck a shot that Pope could only push back into play as the Blues looked to restore our lead rapidly, and we did just that through Moses, who collected an Emerson cross that evaded those in the middle and smashed it inside the post before Pope could react. Burnley had parity for just five minutes.

Hazard came on to further stretch Burnley in the closing stages, as we looked more likely to add a third than Europe-chasing Burnley did of equalising for a second time. All in all, a morale boosting night up north ahead of Sunday’s big cup semi-final.


- Match stats:

Chelsea (3-5-2): Courtois; Azpilicueta, Cahill (c), Rudiger; Moses, Pedro, Kante, Bakayoko, Emerson (Zappacosta 84); Giroud, Morata (Hazard 71).

Scorers Long o.g. 20, Moses 69

Burnley (4-4-2): Pope; Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward; Lennon (Wells 87), Cork (c), Westwood, Gudmundsson; Barnes, Wood (Vokes 72).

Scorer Barnes 64
Booked Tarkowski 28

Referee Bobby Madley
Crowd 21,264 

- Match report by chelseafc.com


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